Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei took the opportunity while casting his ballot Friday to slam the U.S., saying “we don’t a give a damn” about U.S. suggestions that the election might not be credible.
“I recently heard that someone at the U.S. National Security Council said ‘we do not accept this election in Iran’. We don’t give a damn,” he said as he cast his vote, an event broadcast live on Iranian state television, according to Reuters.
Secretary of State John Kerry last month voiced concern that the Iranian regime was engineering the candidates in line with its interests. Kerry said, “The Council narrowed a list of almost seven hundred potential candidates down to the sort of…officials of their choice, based solely on who represents the regime’s interests.”
“That is hardly an election by standards which most people in most countries judge free, fair, open, accessible, accountable elections,” Kerry added in May.
The Islamic Republic’s Guardian Council approved all six remaining candidates running for president who are considered to be largely conservative. The Council disqualified former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani who is viewed by some as a moderate.
If no candidate wins 50% of the vote, a runoff election will be held next week.
Supreme Leader Khamenei on Friday encouraged Iranians to head out to the polls in large numbers. “What is important is that everyone takes part,” he said.
“Our dear nation should come (to vote) with excitement and liveliness, and know that the destiny of the country is in their hands and the happiness of the country depends on them,” Reuters reported Khamenei as saying.
Khamenei insisted on Friday that he hadn’t told anyone – even his family – for whom he was voting. “Even those close to me like my family and children don’t know who I voted for,” he said.
After Iran’s last election in 2009, opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the process of being rigged.
Al Arabiya reporting suggests this latest election may not fare better:
Iranian authorities have intensified their crackdown on journalists and political activists ahead of the June 14 elections, to avoid a scenario similar to the violence that marred the 2009 presidential poll.
Dozens of arbitrary arrests and other human rights abuses against dissidents have taken place in the run-up to Friday’s vote, Amnesty International said in a report published Wednesday.
“This latest crackdown appears intended, at least in part, to stifle debate and to deter criticism of the authorities in the lead-up to the election,” Amnesty said, adding that at least five journalists have been detained and three newspapers shut down since March.
The BBC says its reporters in Iran and their families are facing “unprecedented levels of intimidation” by Iranian authorities.
The British news service says “Iran had warned the families of 15 BBC Persian Service staff that they must stop working for the BBC or their lives in London would be endangered. The family members themselves had been threatened that they may lose jobs and be barred from travelling abroad.”
Liliane Landor, who heads the languages services division of the BBC World Service, said that “in the past few days alone 15 family members have been questioned by the Iranian intelligence ministry in Tehran and other cities across the country.”